Few things in life provide as much happiness as watching our baby smile at us for the first time. We feel goosebumps, run to find a camera to catch the moment, and pray that they will smile a second time. And yes, after a while, the baby does it again! They seem to perfectly understand that we want them to brighten our day with their happy face. And the funny thing about the matter is that, according to a study from the University of California, San Diego, babies consciously smile at their mothers, because they expect them to return the expression.
The evaluated behaviors
Thirteen babies between 4 and 17 weeks participated in the study, along with their mothers. Behaviors based on 4 objectives were analyzed. Scientists wanted to discover what was produced when mother and baby simultaneously smiled and when neither of them smiled. They also examined what happened when only the mother smiled, and when only the baby smiled. To measure the effects of these behaviors, scientists employed techniques used in robotics, psychology, and computer science.
An intentional smile
Babies showed a specific behavior when their mothers smiled. That is, not every behavior performed by the mother was followed by a response. The babies only smiled back at the moms when they smiled specifically at them, which was what the scientists expected.
The response time is fundamental.
When mothers were already smiling and then turned to see their babies, the opposite occurred: They didn’t return the gesture. The little ones take into account the time and circumstances of a smile, just as comedians do so that their jokes have a more significant effect on the audience. That is, they must be spontaneous and exclusively directed at them.
The value of play-time
The researchers that conducted the experiment confirmed that games are necessary for babies to smile. Studies show that children learn by imitation. Their perception is very sharp at an early age, and everything that’s done with them awakens a neurological response. So, if they see that their moms are happy while looking at them, they will copy them.
A small but important sample
The authors of the study agree that, although the analyzed sample of moms and babies was very small, the results were overwhelming. They stressed that the research established the bases of interaction between babies and parents, something previously unexplored. This would demonstrate that children communicate with others from a very young age and that they learn everything they are taught.
Babies’ brains develop specific activation patterns when an adults perform a particular task using a part of their bodies. For example, if they use their hand to take a toy, the baby will do so too. That’s why when they see their mothers smiling at them, they do the same back.
What do you think of how babies react to their momma’s smile? Share your opinions with us in the comment section!